It's difficult to feel much sympathy for Shaheed Malik, the MP for Dewsbury and junior International Development minister detained at a US airport for over 40 minutes while his bags were searched for explosives.
Malik claims that he and two others were singled out for special attention because they had Muslim names. He is "deeply disappointed", he says, especially since the same thing happened to him last year. He goes on:
The abusive attitude I endured last November I forgot about and I forgave but I really do believe that British ministers and parliamentarians should be afforded the same respect and dignity at USA airports that we would bestow upon our colleagues in the Senate and Congress.
Translation: DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
The publicity-conscious Malik, dubbed a "rising star" after Gordon Brown appointed him in July as the first Muslim minister in the House of Commons, certainly has a healthy sense of his own importance. He recently headed a list of MPs' expenses, raking in a cool £185,421, including over £20,000 for postage alone. (By contrast, Conservative Philip Hollobone claimed just £44,551 in total.)
Of course, it's a splendid irony that he was detained by officials of the Dept of Homeland Security, whose guest he had been and with whom he had been discussing terrorism and security matters. For Malik has been a leading advocate for New Labour's draconian terror laws, often to the consternation of his own fellow-religionists.
Writing last August in the Sunday Times he accused David Cameron of "self-indulgent bad timing" for opposing moves such as the introduction of 90-day detention without trial. The Tory leader, he claimed, was guilty of
...gross misjudgment of the national mood in his criticisms of how the government had failed to keep us safe and secure... Cameron's stance, in undermining the unity required from our leaders on such occasions of national unease, played into the extremists' hands.
He was also signatory to a letter in the Guardian datee 9th November 2005, which bemoaned the attention the press had been paying to
...the views of a small number of MPs who are opposed to a maximum 90-day detention period for those arrested in connection with terrorist offences, giving the impression that many MPs share such views...We wish to make it clear that we believe that the police have produced a compelling case.
In Parliament, he has sung the praises of "robust anti-terror legislation, of which I have been a strong and vocal supporter", stating in a speech of 26th October 2005
To those who would say that introducing these laws is a sign that the terrorists have won, I say that they have the luxury of expressing that view. Our role in the House is to guard against such self-indulgence and to prioritise the protection of our people in the face of a new and lethal threat. Since 7 July, this country has changed. Our world has changed, and we must respond to the challenges that that change presents.
Clearly, then, he only objects to anti-terror measures when they affect him. Of course, the measures adopted at airports are inconvenient and often absurd. But in this case, I think the New York authorities are to be congratulated for showing that, in the US at least, politicians are subject to the same laws as everyone else.
Monday, 29 October 2007